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Knicks HC Tom Thibodeau Defends NBA's Play-In Tournament Amid Criticism from Mavs

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVApril 15, 2021

Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

New York Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau defended the NBA's play-in tournament after Dallas Mavericks governor Mark Cuban and star Luka Doncic criticized the concept.

Thibodeau weighed in Wednesday following the Knicks' 116-106 win over the New Orleans Pelicans, per Newsday's Steve Popper:

"I think there are a lot of benefits to it. And so, I guess it depends on what perspective you're looking at it from. I thought Mark articulated that very well. He talked about initially he voted for it, all the benefits. And we saw that I think everyone felt the same way. And so I think we have to let it play out first and then assess it again. But I think a lot of a lot of teams being involved in important games, I think that that's good for the league. I think you're always concerned about that. And so let's see [...] how it plays out, but the initial thought of it I think is very good.

While there's no reason to question whether he was being genuine, it's at least a little easier for Thibodeau to be in favor of the play-in tournament because the Knicks would avoid it if the season ended today. New York sits sixth in the Eastern Conference at 29-27.

The Mavs, on the other hand, wouldn't have that luxury.

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One can see both sides of the argument.

ESPN's Baxter Holmes reported Wednesday that some NBA general managers and trainers believe the compressed regular season has left players at a higher risk of injury. One assistant coach told Holmes it's "the worst schedule I've seen in 25 years in the league."

Cuban explained how the unique circumstances of the 2020-21 campaign were driving his thoughts on the matter:

Having said that, the play-in tournament is probably achieving exactly what the league hoped it would.

In a previous season, the Toronto Raptors, Washington Wizards and Cleveland Cavaliers would probably be dead in the water in a playoff context. Toronto and Washington are six games back of the eighth-place Charlotte Hornets, with Cleveland seven games back. However, the three teams are all within two games of the 10th-place Chicago Bulls, so the postseason remains in play.

"I love it," Wizards coach Scott Brooks told reporters of the play-in. "It’s been a challenge, not only physically what the players have been. ... But that’s life. You gotta get back up and keep charging forward and moving forward."

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and that cliche will probably apply to the play-in tournament for as long as it remains a part of the NBA's playoff formula.